I think the one thing that is being lost in this whole debate is the truly important GAMEPLAY impacts. Ultimately, no one is going to bother with lore for a game that isn't fun to play and deep enough to maintain interest. No one is going to want to mod a game that doesn't have solid, deep gameplay mechanics, or at least the possibility of adding greater depth and improved gameplay.
Honestly, I have trouble understanding why the LORE and CUSTOMIZATION are being presented as exclusive. I understand that assets are limited, but how is stopping you from having both? You are already paying Random House to create lore, right? So are you saying that you would cut off some of the resources being spent on that in order to fund more coding? I don't get it....
Lore and Customization only matter if the gameplay itself is fundamentally sound, deep, and fun. Here are my thoughts on how the current debate over factions, races, lore, and customization should be handled with respect to creating, first and foremost, a great game:
- Presently, Elemental supports Alignment (Kingdom vs. Empire), Faction (Altar, Pariden, etc.) and Race (Men, Urxen, Trog, etc.).
Please keep this, and expand it to have truly meaningful impacts on gameplay. This would include as many of the gameplay features that many of us have been clamoring for as possible, such as unique techs, buildings, equipment, spells, etc. Expand the gameplay to capitalize on having distinct factions and races by expanding the way races and factions are modeled within the city, unit, and diplomacy systems. I for one won't care about creating a custom race or faction for a game that doesn't have gameplay features that really allow my custom race or faction to shine. Spore had great customization, but the actual gameplay was generally poor and all of that customization I didn't ultimately didn't matter much.
- There are two general directions to take:
- Eliminate the race distinctions and instead build out the Factions with more lore and artwork. Current customization of factions would remain.
- Expand the race distinctions and provide more assets and code to support players creating their own custom factions made up by their own custom races.
I would select #2 while still maintaining the great lore and detail for the stock factions and races.
So the question is, where would people like to see the focus? More emphasis on making the game lore with the 10 factions. Or more emphasis on making it easy for players (in game) to customize their own factions/races?
I still don't understand why these are exclusive. However, if I had to decide between these two, I would vote for making the base game as good as possible now with very expansive lore and character, and add greater customization options in an expansion pack.
Ultimately, it comes down to the gameplay. If the gameplay is solid, the game will be solid. If the gameplay is solid and has great lore and story, the game will be solid and will draw people in and hold their interest. If the gameplay is solid with great lore AND massive customization, then the game will be solid, draw people in, and hold their attention for years to come.